When you think about learning English, what comes to mind first? Is it the tape recorder your English teacher used to carry with her all the time? Is it those old textbooks with smiley teenagers on the cover?
Luckily, learning English today is much more fun than it was ten or twenty years ago. Podcasts, YouTube channels and streaming services have made lots of content in dozens of languages available for everyone either for free or at a very low cost.
Of all streaming platforms, HBO is probably the best if you’re looking for quality movies to learn English or your current level. This is because, unlike Netflix, HBO is known for its select catalogue, full of award-winning films and prestigious shows to learn English while you have a really good time in front of your screen.
Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Mare of Easttown (Miniseries – 2021)
A sergeant detective in a remote Pennsylvania town investigates the murder of a young woman while trying to keep her life from coming apart.
A hardly original premise, Mare of Easttown is elevated by a strong sense of place, fully-drawn characters, and a stellar central performance by Kate Winslet, who is already being tipped to win an Emmy for her portrayal of a stoic woman struck by grief:
If you’re a language lover looking for shows to learn English accents, you can’t do much better than Mare of Easttown, as it provides a rare opportunity to hear the Delco accent, that is to say, the accent most commonly used in Pennsylvania.
“Is Kate Winslet slipping back into her British accent?” you might wonder at some point during the first episode. She’s not. That’s how people in some areas of Philly talk. They don’t say “water” —they say “wooder”. They don’t say “phone” with an “ou” sound —they say “phewn”.
How specific are the accents in Mare of Easttown? Well, let’s just say they inspired one of the best Saturday Night Live sketches in recent memory:
2. All the King’s Men (2021)
Are you looking for great American movies to learn English as spoken in Louisiana? Then watch this complex political drama based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Robert Penn Warren.
The film follows the epic rise and fall of an idealist but ultimately corrupt politician played by Sean Penn. With an amazing supporting cast which includes Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, and again, Kate Winslet, All the King’s Men explores human frailty, the dangers of power, and the effects of guilt.
Advanced learners looking for movies to learn English accents should be delighted to hear the likes of Sean Penn and Anthony Hopkins putting on a southern accent.
Watch out for those long vowels that seem to turn into diphthongs, making “here” sound like hee-yur or “red” sound like ray-ehd! Look for those characteristic “I” sounds that make a simple “Hi” sound like “hah”! Which actor do you think will pull them off best?
Let’s see how Kate and Jude Law do it.
3. The “Before” Trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013)
In Before Sunrise, a French woman and an American man meet on a train in Europe, and after only one conversation decide to spend one day together in Vienna before they both have to go back to their countries.
When this movie was first released, little did we know that we would be allowed to witness both the actors and the characters’ journeys through time in not one but two amazing sequels.
A rare story that is as romantic as it is intellectually challenging, the relationship between Jesse and Céline has given us three excellent movies to learn English as the camera follows them through different cities having non-stop conversations on the nature of life, love and loss.
If you’re looking for movies and shows to learn English from an international perspective, this is also a great choice as it’s a two-hander between an American man and a French woman.
Watch a beautiful scene from the first film below.
4. Girls (TV series, 2012-2017)
A dramedy about the experiences of a group of girls in their early 20s, Girls could be described as the thinking woman’s Sex and the City.
Hannah, a not-so-young-anymore college graduate, receives the news that her parents will no longer support her financially just a few hours after learning she has lost an internship.
Devastated, she will try to find her way as a writer living in New York while having numerous adventures (and misadventures) bordering on irresponsible with her dysfunctional but lovable group of girl-friends.
If you’re looking for great shows to learn English, Girls might just be what you’re looking for. Since the show is more interested in its characters than in coming up with wild plot twists, it is rich in relatable dialogue about romance, work, vocation, and friendship.
What’s more, one of Hannah’s friends, who is British, provides an interesting linguistic contrast with the rest of the characters. Learners who want to watch shows to learn English accents will find a much more meaningful experience in Girls than they could have expected.
Watch the trailer for Girls’ fantastic first season here:
So, here they are. Two thought-provoking shows and two wonderful movies to learn English while having fun.
If you enjoy learning languages through media, make sure you check out our list of great YouTube channels to improve your English.
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